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Rankin Inlet mayor says community disapproves of mine dumping water into lake

Residents of Rankin Inlet are hoping an alternative solution can be found to Agnico Eagle Mines (AEM) dumping the contents of a catchment pond into Meliadine Lake, says the community’s mayor.

Noel Kaludjak, left, and Andy Kowtak go to Meliadine Lake for ice to give to elders in the community of Rankin Inlet. Many in the community are not happy over AEM planning to drain a containment pond into the lake this coming summer.
photo courtesy Noel Kaludjak

The pond at AEM’s Meliadine gold mine contains about 18 months worth of rain water and melted snow, and AEM has had an emergency amendment to its water licence approved by federal Minister of Northern Affairs Dan Vandal allowing the company to release the water into Meliadine Lake from now until the end of October.

AEM reports the containment pond is at near capacity now, holding 650,000 cubic metres of water, and the company expects the spring melt to bring an additional 450,000 cubic metres of water.

Although AEM’s studies show the water is non-toxic and will not harm the marine environment, Rankin Inlet Mayor Harry Towtongie said many people in the community, especially elders, have grave concerns over the water being released into Meliadine Lake.

Towtongie said he’s not a scientist but he has concerns over water being pumped back into Meliadine Lake for, as far as he’s aware, the first time in the lake’s existence.

He said the lake provides drinking water for most in the community and the action just doesn’t sit right with many in Rankin Inlet.

“Agnico Eagle has always given us a head’s-up on what they’re doing, but it happened differently this time and I don’t think that can all be blamed on Covid-19,” said Towtongie.

“This action was taken through HTOs (hunters and trappers organizations), KIA (Kivalliq Inuit Association), NTI (Nunavut Tunngavik Inc), the Nunavut Water Board and NIRB (Nunavut Impact Review Board) – it went through all those and the federal minister, while the community, itself, was among the last to hear about it.

“That just doesn’t sit well with what people are going to think about it, especially our Elders, who are not happy about now having to drink water that has been pumped back into a lake that they’ve been using for so many years.”

Towtongie said the community is hoping a better option will surface than dumping the water in Meliadine Lake.

“Maybe they can use the water in the pond, that they say is OK, for their own water needs at the mine instead of pumping it into the lake.

“We don’t have an answer, but we’re hoping something more viable will come up that’s different from what they’re planning now. We, as a community, are hoping for a different solution.

“This is something that should have went to community consultation, which didn’t happen because of Covid-19, but I still feel they should have done a radio show and taken other steps to inform the community as to what was going on.

“We need the jobs and everything, so we need to support the mine. But, at the same time, they need to be transparent with us and what they plan to do with our lake isn’t sitting well right now and we’re hoping they’ll give us another option.”